Monday, January 18, 2010

Sunday Dinner: Funky Monkey Wine Company

Here's a bit of news: there are almost no decent restaurants open in Orlando on Sundays. This is what we went through to go to dinner last night.

White Wolf Cafe - Closed at 3pm on Sundays
The Ravenous Pig - Closed Sundays and Mondays
K Restaurant and Wine Bar - Closed Sundays and Monday afternoons (open Monday for dinner)
Taste - Closed Sundays
Virgin Olive Market - Closed Sundays



We ended up finally getting a reservation at Funky Monkey Wine Company, a tiny, yellow 30-seat bistro/sushi bar/wine bar on Mills Ave (above), open since August of 2007, now expanded to a more tourist-friendly location on I-Drive next to Maggiano's and Capital Grille. It's a good thing, that, since visitors to Orlando often only see the Bennigan's and TGI Fridays that dot our landscape and completely miss the eclectic offerings Orlando hides under its skirt.

That being said, I was left a little bit confused after glancing through the menu. The restaurant seems to be going through an identity crisis, and the slogan on its website 'stylish yet unconventional' seems an understatement. Half of the menu is classic New American - bison burger, inventive salads, wild mushroom risotto - and the other half is an extensive sushi menu.

While one of our dining companions ordered a gorgeously cooked bacon-wrapped pork tenderloin and Merlot, his girlfriend enjoyed an Asian pear sake-tini and a sushi roll. I've seen this kind of thing before, at restaurants serving spaghetti and meatballs alongside bangers and mash. I enjoy fusion more than the next critic - but these kinds of juxtapositions just leave me feeling confused.

I enjoyed the bottle of 2005 Aquinas Napa Valley Merlot, easily drinkable with smoke and tobacco notes, but scoffed at the $38 price tag. For a $9 bottle of wine, a 40% markup seems a little much. The chef's soup, roasted red pepper bisque, was deliciously creamy and rich, though slightly overseasoned. Instead of the mountain of Parmigiano, I would have preferred some fresh basil to lighten things up. I really enjoyed the Blue Monkey Salad: tender spinach leaves with blueberry balsamic vinaigrette and porcini/shiitake/oyster mushrooms and 'bleu cheese.' It's in quotes because though bleu was on the menu, goat was on the plate. I enjoy goat cheese too much to protest.

Funky Monkey Wine Company is a great addition to Orlando's eclectic New American cuisine wave, though I think it may be getting too big for its britches at this point. The verdict: B-. Cons: slightly overpriced, lacks culinary finesse. Pros: good use of imagination, excellent service, inventive dishes, romantic.

2 comments:

Lauren Forconi said...

Wow, and I thought Vancouver was bad for rolling everything up at 9 PM. Closed Sundays is so 1959.

"It's a good thing, that, since visitors to Orlando often only see the Bennigan's and TGI Fridays that dot our landscape and completely miss the eclectic offerings Orlando hides under its skirt."

Well, honestly... this describes me pretty well, too. I always assumed Orlando had no local culture or identity, just Darden restaurants and tourist traps. (I think this is why I take so quickly to places not-Orlando.) Unfortunately my parents' generic eating habits are unlikely to break me out of this line of thinking when I visit.

hollywog said...

In all fairness, the restaurant I worked at as pastry chef in Tallahassee, Cypress, was closed Sundays and Mondays. We just didn't have the staff to be open 7 days, nor did we want to have enough staff to be open 7 days.

Of course, this was in Tallahassee, where it's still 1959.